Falcons' rally falls short to Walton 21-13

Photo: David McGregor Dacula wide reciever Roman Schnaak walks off the field after the Falcons lost in the quarterfinals of the AAAAA state playoffs to Walton 21-13.

Photo: David McGregor Dacula wide reciever Roman Schnaak walks off the field after the Falcons lost in the quarterfinals of the AAAAA state playoffs to Walton 21-13.

MARIETTA -- Throughout its Class AAAAA state quarterfinal game against No. 6 state-ranked Walton, Dacula simply refused to go away.

But thanks to a pair of playmakers -- running back Tyren Jones and safety/receiver Zack Blaylock, the host Raiders were finally able to elude their persistent guests.

Jones ran for 156 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries and returned a punt for a score, while Blaylock had two crucial fourth-quarter interceptions and a 96-yard touchdown reception to help the Raiders finally pull away from the pesky Falcons 21-13 Friday night at Raider Valley.

Walton went to 13-0 for the first time in school history, and will make its third appearance in the semifinals since 2004 when it welcomes east Cobb rival Lassiter to Raider Valley next week.

But it took them until the next to last play of the game to finally put away Dacula, which ended a strong season at 9-4.

"One thing Dacula doesn't do is quit," an emotional Falcons coach Jared Zito said after the game. "That's a tribute to our team, our community and our history. It's just built in. It's part of (what) Dacula is. It's just full of heart. One loss of a ball game doesn't change that a bit."

Down 14-10, the Falcons had their chances down just 14-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

But on the second play of the final frame, Rocky Capobianco, who finished with 122 yards rushing and 50 more passing, briefly spotted Davian McEwan open for what could've been the go-ahead touchdown.

But Blaylock saw him too, and leapt to pick the pass off at the Walton 2-yard line with 11:18 left to keep the Raiders in front.

Three snaps later, the senior got behind the Dacula defense and hauled in a Parker McLeod pass before dashing 96 yards for the score to extend the Walton lead to 21-10 with 9:38 left.

Still, the Falcons wouldn't quit and marched 35 yards over the six plays before getting McEwan's second field goal of the game -- a 42-yarder with 7:14 left -- to pull to within one score again at 21-13.

Dacula got one last chance when it forced Walton to punt before taking possession at its own 33 with 2:28 to play.

After six completions and a defensive holding penalty on Walton, the Falcons had the ball first and 10 at the Raiders' 21.

But Danny Boardman's sack of Brandon Goodson set Dacula back 5 yards, and Blaylock came up with this third big play of the fourth quarter with his second interception in the end zone with 16 seconds left to seal the win and send Walton to the semifinals.

"They're a good football team," Zito said of Walton. "No one gets to 12-0 and gets to the this point without being a hell of a team."

The two teams exchanged first-quarter touchdowns on special teams on Jones' 62-yard punt return and Josh Bullock's recovering of a high Walton punt snap in the end zone.

The only difference in the exchange was Morgan Loyd's block of Walton's PAT and McEwan's successful attempt that left the Falcons with a 7-6 lead with 3:27 left in the opening frame, before Jones gave the Raiders another big play right before the end of the quarter.

This time, the 6-foot, 190-pound tailback broke away from the line of scrimmage for a 43-yard touchdown and Parker McLeod hit Dakota Richardson with the two-point conversion to vault the Raiders back in front at 14-7 with 24.4 seconds left in the period.

The Falcons then took advantage of Walton mistakes -- mainly five of the Raiders' 11 first-half penalties -- to control the ball and the clock in the second quarter.

Dacula had 25 offensive plays to Walton's eight in the quarter for 9:04 to the Raiders' 2:56, and cashed in on a rare mistake by Jones late in the half.

The junior appeared to be headed for a big gain, but had the ball punched out of his hands for just his second fumble of the season, which Chase Loyd pounced on to give the Falcons the ball on the Walton 42 with 36.3 seconds left in the first half. Loyd also caused the fumble.

A pass interference penalty combined with a completion from Goodson to Capobianco and two more runs by Capobianco put the Falcons on the Walton 9, where McEwan booted a 26-yard field goal as time expired to send Dacula into intermission down just 14-10.

The Raiders tried to turn the tables on the Falcons with their initial possession of the third quarter, marching 42 yards in 10 plays and draining 5:32 off the clock, with Jones accounting for all but one of those yards.

But Morgan Loyd caught Jones in the backfield for a 3-yard loss on third down and forced Walton into a 43-yard field goal attempt by Anthony Price, which sailed wide left to keep the Falcons' deficit just 14-10.